Cleaning up the Fruit Garden

Cleaning up the Fruit Garden

Part of Ep. 505 Putting the Garden to Bed

Join UW-Extension Fruit Crop Specialist, Teryl Roper, to learn what  to do to prepare fruit trees and berries for the winter.

Premiere date: Sep 30, 1997

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley:
When getting your yard and garden ready for the winter, don't forget your fruit crops. We join UW-Extension Fruit Crop Specialist, Teryl Roper, to learn what we need to do to our fruit trees and berries. Teryl, when I think of getting my yard and garden ready to get to bed, I don't think of painting my apple tree? Why are you doing this?

Teryl Roper:
We're painting this tree trunk white to prevent southwest injury or sun scald. The way that occurs is in the winter when there's snow on the ground. And there's sure to be snow on the ground here later. When you get a sunny day, then light reflects off of the snow and up onto the tree trunk. If the tree trunk is dark, it absorbs the light energy and warms up. The tree, then, forgets that it's winter. And then, after those sunny days, we always get a cold, clear night. And if that tree isn't hardy and forgets that it's winter, it will be injured. And that's the sun scald or southwest injury. It most commonly occurs on the south and west sides of the tree where the light energy is greater.

Shelley:
What does it look like, so I can know?

Teryl:
In the spring, typically, we'll get a long wound where the bark will peel off. It gets loose and it will flake away. And then, later, there's a long wound. It will heal up, but it's best to prevent it.

Shelley:
We don't need to stress them any more than we have to.

Teryl:
That's right. And we're using a white interior-grade latex paint because it breathes. And I've diluted this with two parts water to one part paint. You don't want to use any sort of an exterior paint, and certainly, no oil based products, because they don't breathe well. And the tree trunk is alive and needs to exchange oxygen and air throughout the winter, as well.

Shelley:
So, it's really just a white reflective surface. We're not trying to coat it or smother it or anything like that.

Teryl:
That's right, just a light coat.

Shelley:
Do I have to paint? Are there other options?

Teryl:
There are some other options. We can take a look at those.

Shelley:
Okay.

Teryl:
Shelley, here's the other material we can use to prevent sun scald. It's just craft paper. We simply spiral it around the trunk. Start at the bottom and work your way up to the top. But before we can do that, we've got to get rid of this vegetation around the tree. This grass in particular is competitive with trees and it will take the water and nutrients away from the tree. So, we can pull it or mow it or spray it with an herbicide. And then, the best approach to keep it from coming back is to use a mulch around the tree, about a foot or two out away from the tree.

Shelley:
Now, if I mow it, don't I have to be careful about getting too close to the tree?

Teryl:
That's right. That's the other problem. If you have vegetation growing right next to the tree, is that people want to get close with their string trimmers or lawn mowers and they'll bang up the trunk and damage the trunk.

Shelley:
So, that's why the mulch is out so far, to protect the tree.

Teryl:
That's right.

Shelley:
This also looks like a great hiding place for field mice or other critters.

Teryl:
Right. Rodents can be a real problem with fruit trees in the winter when food is scarce. They'll gnaw this bark off and kill the tree. And the grass offers protection and you also have food supply for them. That's got to go.

Shelley:
Okay, so, keep it all clean. That'll help with all of the problems we're talking about.

Teryl:
That's right.

Shelley:
What about some of the other fruit crops? What about raspberries?

Teryl:
Let's go take a look at them.

Shelley:
Okay.

Teryl:
One of the most important things you can know about raspberries, Shelley, are what kind you have: if they're fall bearing or summer bearing. These are obviously fall bearing raspberries, because it's fall and there are berries.

Shelley:
And that makes a difference in how we treat them.

Teryl:
That's right. For the fall bearing raspberries, the easiest way is to just mow them all off. Cut them all off right at the ground level. That can be done anytime when the leaves are not on the cane. So, late this fall or early next spring. And then, next year, new canes will grow up and you'll get a crop in the fall again.

Shelley:
So, that's the easiest way to deal them.

Teryl:
Very easy.

Shelley:
What about the summer bearing? I understand they're a little bit more-- there are a few more steps involved.

Teryl:
The summer bearing raspberries are a little more complex because the canes grow one year and fruit the second year.

Shelley:
Okay.

Teryl:
So, we don't want to cut off the canes that will produce next year's crop. But once they've born a crop, they've done their job and they die. It's time to get them out. So, we want to cut them off very close to the ground and get them right out of the planting.

Shelley:
Is this what it's going to look like after it's done. I mean, we won't have any confusion when we go out there to cut these back?

Teryl:
No confusion, they're dead.

Shelley:
Okay.

Teryl:
This could've even been done earlier in the year.

Shelley:
Is there anything else we do at the end of the growing season?

Teryl:
There's nothing else we need to do right at the end of the growing season. But sometime between now and next spring, there are a couple of other things that need to be done. One is to remove about 25 percent of the length of cane on the tip. So, you'd probably cut it about right here. There aren't much fruit produced up here and cutting there will tend to stiffen the cane and improve the crop. And then, again in the spring, we want to thin out the number of canes to about six to eight canes per running foot of row. If we have more canes than that, the canopy is dense, you don't get good air movement through it and it's difficult to pick them, as well.

Shelley:
A little too crowded in there! Do we have to mulch raspberries for winter

Teryl:
You don't have to mulch raspberries. They're very hardy and they survive the winter just fine. But we do have to mulch strawberries. Strawberries are a little more tender. We want to cover them over with two to three inches of a light, lofty material that will provide some insulation and keep the temperature from fluctuating. So, straw or marsh hay, either one works very well.

Shelley:
And can I do that now?

Teryl:
I would wait a little while. You want a little frost in the soil. Usually in southern Wisconsin, about Thanksgiving is the right time. And in northern Wisconsin, maybe a week earlier.

Shelley:
All right. It sounds like I've got my work cut out for me.

Teryl:
You do!

Shelley:
Thanks for your help, Teryl.

Teryl:
Sure.

Shelley:
Don't forget watering when putting the garden to bed. Many plants, particularly evergreens which don't go completely dormant over the winter will benefit from one last deep watering before the ground freezes. Plenty of water helps them suffer less from drying winter winds and the harsh winter sun, both of which cause desiccation. So, get out there one last time with your watering can!

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